Looking at God's World
A war had been lost and the world was changing for the people of Blount County, Alabama, in the late 1860s. James and Mary Ann (Durham) Morton had raised 12 children and now had grandchildren as the decade of the war ended. More importantly, the family was breaking up, spreading out. This was not new for the Morton clan. James and Mary Ann had been born in South Carolina. They started their family there, then moved their first four kids to Blount County, Alabama, sometime between 1816 and 1819.
Their fourth oldest child, Elizabeth, had already left Blount County, heading to Arkansas by 1860. Sometime during the war, James and Mary Ann’s fifth oldest child, Sarah, left Alabama, as well. The sisters, Elizabeth Morton Durham and Sarah Morton Holly, led the vanguard of the Morton children who left Alabama and eventually ended up in Texas, but not Henderson County.
Three of their six brothers would leave for Texas in 1869 or 1870. The three brothers relocated from Blount County, Alabama, to Henderson County, Texas—Jesse, John Hinkle, and Drury. In 1870, Jesse would have been 55 years old, John Hinkle turned 49, and Drury reached his 41st birthday. John and Drury had married sisters–Sarena and Mary Ann Hallmark, respectively; so there was a tie there to keep them together. I’m not sure if the three brothers traveled together or separately, but they all came to Henderson County.
Land deeds at the Henderson County Courthouse in Athens, Texas, did not shed much light on these early years in Texas. My daughter, Tabitha, and I could not find any indication of land purchases by Jesse or Drury Morton. We did find a land purchase by a John Morton on December 20, 1872, so this may have been our John Hinkle Morton.
One of the most interesting finds was a deed filed on December 9, 1871, registering the sell of 269 1/3 acres from Jesse Morton to N.M. Morton. We found no record that Jesse ever bought this land, but he apparently held title to it so the record may have been lost. Also, in the deed transfer index, the notation for this transaction lists the buyer as W.M. Morton, which may have been Jesse’s son, William Manse Morton, who was married that same year. The description of this land, including a reference to the Hallum Branch, puts it in the area where Manse’s son, Grover, would later live. Tabitha and I found numerous discrepancies between the deeds and indexes, so I think it is reasonable to speculate that Jesse Morton sold his son this land to help him get started as a newlywed. The buyer paid $425.
One deed did reference a Drury Morton Survey, but we found no record of him buying land.
Let me introduce another character into this story, Joel Morton. This person bought 160 acres northeast of Athens from a Travis Scott on October 3, 1871. It is possible this was the three brothers’ cousin, who was the son of their father James’s older brother. Other records indicate our relative named Joel died in Blackjack, Henderson County, Texas, in 1900. A check of census records indicates this is almost certainly true, because our Joel Morton matches with the right children in 1880. Blackjack is near Brownsboro and Murchison.
Jesse Morton’s Family
Jesse Morton, called “Old Tob,” was the oldest of the Mortons to head to Texas. He and his wife, Winnefred “Winney” Durham, came to Texas sometime between 1870 and 1880. The 1860 census has Jesse and Winney living in eastern Blount County, Alabama, with four of their children, John, 17; Mary, 16; William, 12; and Jas. J., 10. Their oldest child, Daniel, 24, had married in 1854 and moved out. Daniel would die in 1862.
The younger four would have been 27, 26, 22, and 20 in 1870, when we know some of the Mortons moved to Texas. In 1870, the oldest of Jesse’s surviving children, John, was living with his wife, Nancy Jane Willmon, and their one-year-old baby, Burlen, in her parents’ home in Blount County, Alabama. In 1880, he and Nancy and their three oldest children were living in Athens, Henderson County, Texas–Burlen, Anna, and Amma.
Jesse and Winney’s next oldest child was Mary Jane. I am unsure about her. I think she may have married Lester Foster, then Alfred Hutcherson. She may have also been living in Van Zandt County, Texas, in 1930 at age 87. Van Zandt County is immediately north of Henderson County, and Cottonwood community is not far from the county line.
William Manse, Jesse and Winney’s next oldest child, lived in Alabama in 1860 and married “Puss,” a native Texan, in Texas in 1871. This William is referred to in records as William M., but Fain Abbott Morton identified him as Manse.
There is little record of the youngest of Jesse and Winney’s children, James J. The last information about him was as a 10-year-old living with his parents in Alabama. We can surmise that he died sometime between 1860 and 1870 before the family came to Texas.
Jesse, the oldest of the three brothers to come to Texas died in 1880, but I do not know a location. By this date his two younger brothers were gone, as well. Drury A. to death in 1875, and John Hinkle had moved to Montague County, Texas. I do not have death information on Jesse’s widow, Winney.
Jesse and Winney Morton’s Descendants
The primary connection of Jesse’s descendants to Cottonwood came through his son, William Manse Morton. Manse and Mary J. “Puss” had three daughters – Ella, Clarra E., Isabella, and Thomas Grover. I have limited information on the daughters, but Grover retained a lasting presence in Cottonwood. Manse died March 5, 1926, in Floyd County, Texas.
Mrs. Ruth Cook, writing September 30, 1985, described Cottonwood and included a reference to Manse:
“The once thriving farming community of Cottonwood isn’t very far south of Melton Rock on the Old Prairie Athens Road.
“The Community had a school which consolidated with Eustace in 1943. There was a store owned by Shade Graham. A Post office was located in this store also. Manse Morton owned and operated a grist mill and blacksmith shop. There was a Baptist Church. The Cemetery has existed since 1871. It’s located farther south across FM 2709. There’s a sign showing the direction to the cemetery. It is maintained by voluntary donations. An annual Memorial service is held on the first Sunday in June.”
Grover Morton was born June 1885, presumably in Cottonwood, but I’m not sure. He married Chloe Vesta Cornelius and they gave birth to four sons and one daughter – Everett Hershell, Loree V., Julius T. (or L.), Milburn, and Clint. The 1930 U.S. census shows the young family, before Clint, living in Floyd County in West Texas. But soon after that time, Grover and his young family lived on land that is now southwest of where County Road 2803 dead ends into County Road 2804 (now, in 2011, owned by Rick Bailey of Eustace).
Drury A. Morton’s Family
This leaves us with Drury A. Morton, the youngest of the three brothers. A June 16, 1991, letter from Margaret Snodgrass to Larry Morton (I believe), adds some important pieces to our puzzle.
“Drury served in the Civil War. While he was in the war, their little daughter Winnie died. Their home in Blount County, Ala. burned while Drury was in the war. He came back from the war with a bad cough. In 1870 they moved to Henderson County, Texas. Drury died in 1875 and later Mary Ann’s home burned again in Henderson County. Their land was in the area where the Henry Morton place is now. Mary Ann died in 1922 and she and Drury are buried in Cottonwood Cemetery near Athens, Texas.”
As Margaret’s letter notes, Drury died in 1875, thus he preceded both of his older brothers in death.
Drury had married Mary Ann Hallmark November 25, 1854, in Blount County, Alabama. They gave birth to six of their eight children in Alabama. One of Drury and Mary Ann’s great-grandchildren, Ferrell Eugene “Gene” Foster Sr., was told that the family came west in a covered wagon or wagons.
Here’s some basic information regarding where each of the eight children lived out their lives:
1) Salemna Celina Sarah Morton, born 1852, was already married to David Owen when they moved to Texas. They eventually had six children. Information says the oldest was born in Henderson County in 1869, but I suspect this child may have been born in Alabama. They named their second child, born in 1872, Texanna. Sarah lived to the age of 102 and died in Henderson County, according to family tree information submitted by Carla Owen Moore to the ancestry.com web site. “My daddy, Oscar Haskell Owen, told me that his grandmother went fishing on her 102nd birthday. A family member or members took her. She died before she turned 103,” Moore wrote.
2) Marilda E. Morton was born in Blount County, Alabama, in 1855. The 1860 census notes that she still lived there with her parents and three sisters. She married Jesse Milton “Milt” Graham on August 24, 1878, in Henderson County, and they would have eight children. Census information from 1900 and 1920 shows her still living in Henderson County. At the later date, she was living with her youngest son, Reagan, and his wife Alsa, along with two of their children and Marilda’s second youngest son, Seldon. Marilda died that same year on July 3 in Henderson County.
3) Winnie S. Morton, born in 1856, died in 1863, before the family made the journey west.
4) Cerena C. Morton was born in 1859 in Alabama. The only other solid information I have on her is that she was with her family in 1860, as recorded by the census. Information on ancestry.com indicates she may have died near Cleburne in Johnson County, Texas–date unknown.
5) Rosetta “Zettie” Canzada Morton was born April 25, 1864, in Blount County. The 1870 census shows six-year-old Zettie and her family living in Henderson County. On January 7, 1885, she married James A. Frazier, and they would have eight children. The 1910 census shows her still living in Henderson County with James and four of their children. She died May 25, 1941, in Henderson County.
6) John Henry Morton was born Jan. 13, 1867, Blount County. He came to Texas as a two or three-year-old riding in his parents’ wagon, according to Gene Foster, his grandson. The 1870 census lists him among his family living in Henderson County. John Henry married Amanda Carylon Roberson on December 23, 1890, in Eustace, and they would have seven children. Census data in 1900 and 1910 has them living in Henderson County, and John Henry would die in Athens on December 3, 1962.
7) James Dennis Morton was the first child of Drury and Mary Ann born in Texas, apparently being born in November 1869. The 1870 census places his birth and birthplace as 1969 in Texas. The only other information I have on James Dennis is that he died in 1899, which would have made him about 30 years old. I have found no record of a marriage or children.
8) Alice Morton was born September 15, 1873, in Henderson County, Texas. She married James Henry Willmon in January 1894, and the 1990 and 1910 censuses have them living in Johnson County, Texas. They apparently had four children, Ethel (born 1894), Etha (1895), Annie (1898), and J.D. (1908). Alice died August 28, 1954, in Dumas, Moore County, Texas. I have not been able to find any information on these children.
As can be seen above, three of Drury and Mary Ann’s children remained in Henderson County, and their descendants formed a major part of the Cottonwood community — Grahams, Fraziers, and Mortons.
The purpose of this paper is to follow the Mortons, so I will let someone else look into Marilda Graham and Zettie Fraziers’ descendents. I will stick with the descendents of John Henry Morton and his wife, a native Texan, Amanda Carylon Roberson Morton.
John Henry Morton’s Family
“Papa” and “Big Mama,” as they were called, had seven children. All were born in Henderson County, Texas, presumably at home in Cottonwood community. They lived much of their lives in their white frame home on the top of a hill west of Hallum Branch. They called it Hickory Hill, and it was immediately south of the Cottonwood church and school. It was a nice house by the standards of its day in the early 20th century Cottonwood. One of its most memorable features was the porch that wrapped around the southeast corner of the house and stood several feet above the ground.
“Papa’s chair sat on the corner of the porch, and I sat out there and he just told me stuff,” said the youngest of his grandchildren, Bobbie Ann Hendley Armstrong in 2010. “Papa was very knowledgeable. He loved kids, especially his baby’s baby, and was very smart. He could figure compound interest in his head. I learned that from sitting on the porch talking to him.”
Another grandchild, Ferrell Eugene “Gene” Foster Sr., remembered John Henry as a small man, “both short and lean.” But Gene called him “the commander,” meaning John Henry was always in charge. He had land holdings amounting to 1,400 acres, was “the loan officer for many a friend and family member, and generally presided over the well-being of Cottonwood community, of which his house on the hill was the central point.”
John Henry loved horses, and he bought a pony when Gene was a boy in order for his grandson to ride with him. They rode together to check on the elder’s livestock, which was kept on land south of present day Farm-to-Market Road 2709 and away from the Morton home place. Papa also took Gene fishing, often carrying a shotgun “in case he could bag a rabbit.” One day, John Henry reared his gun quickly and fired; the result was a dead “gobbler” belonging to Gert. They had to give up fishing and clean the turkey for the evening meal since refrigeration did not exist on the Morton place at the time.
Papa “wore a light beige Stetson hat, felt and tall, whenever he went somewhere,” Bobbie Ann said. “The most I can remember, he wasn’t doing much work. I was so much younger so he was just about beyond work when I came along.
“He was a little partial to the kids he liked, and he didn’t have much patience with kids who didn’t mind,” she said. “I remember him hiding Easter eggs for me when I was about six years old.
“Big Mama was very patient, very kind. I don’t remember ever seeing our grandmother really mad. And she was a great cook. She cooked for that bunch of kids, and they raised three of their grandkids [the children of Mary Lockie] and they had hired hands.”
In Papa and Big Mama’s later years, their kids, especially the girls cared for them. Jewel, who lived in Waxahachie at the time, “came down on the weekends during the last few years and helped,” Bobbie Ann said. “Aunt Lut [Tuck] and Gert [Foster] took turns during the week taking meals, and Mom [Jewel Hendley] took the weekend. I think Aunt Gert ended up with her more than Aunt Lut. …Mom said Big Mama was always happier with Aunt Gert than Aunt Lut. Mom said Aunt Gert could think of things for Big Mama to do that would make her happy, little things.”
The house on Hickory Hill had been vacant for years when it burned in the 1990s due to unknown causes. In 2011, the address was 12900 County Road 2803. , and the land is now owned by one of John Henry and Amanda Carylon’s great-grandchildren, Ferrell Eugene Foster Jr.
Gene Foster said Papa carried a stick as he walked and tore up “cow patties” (manure) in order to spread the fertilizing qualities. The plot where the Mortons once had their garden is now where we store hay bales for the winter. And the stock tank Papa dug out of the sand and clay with a slip behind a mule sits in front of my house. It had never gone dry until about 2007 or 2008, when a two-year drought caused the spring to dry up. Gene hired a man to dig it out again, then we used the tractor to dig it out more, so we hope “Papa’s Tank” will continue to hold water for years to come.
Hallum Branch, to the east of the hill, doesn’t carry as much water as it used to because of lakes and ponds above us, but there is still generally water flowing year round.
All that is left of the old house is the base of the chimney, plus some of the pier footings, but in 2011 you can still make out the basic configuration of the house, with the well out back long out of use and needing to be filled in.
Here is a general record of John Henry and Amanda Carylon’s immediate descendants:
1) Lula Belle Morton (1892-1986) married Thomas Eli Tuck July 7, 1914, and died April 1, 1986. They had four children, listed here:
— Jack Morton Tuck (1915-1970), born in Henderson County, reared in Ellis County, and died in Illinois;
— Robert Eli Tuck (1917-1991), born in Henderson County, reared in Ellis County and lived there as an adult, and died on a visit back to Henderson County;
— Royal Lynn Tuck (1923-1923) lived only two days, probably in Ellis County; and
— Imogene Tuck (1928-1970), born in Ellis County and died in Dallas County.
2) Mary Lockie Morton (1894-1921) married Allie Foreman Beeson. Mary died either giving birth to Marie or shortly thereafter, according to Gene and Hilda Foster. Mary and Allie had three children. Mary’s parents had to take care of the three children, with the help of their aunt, Gertrude. The three children are listed here:
— Howard Loyd Beeson (1916-1992), born and died in Henderson County.
— Allie Wilson Beeson (1918-1967), born in Henderson County and died in Van Zandt County. He lived a good portion of his life with his grandparents, John Henry and Amanda Carylon Morton. He was married to a Leila May Smith, and they lived in Van Zandt County, on his sister Marie’s place. Wilson died there while cutting down a tree that “split back” on him, said Gene Foster.
— Mary Marie Beeson (1921-), married A.D. Carmichael, and they had two children, Annette and Larry. Marie was like a sister to Gene Foster, so he always called her “Sister,” he said years later.
3) James Henry Morton (1897-1974), was born and died in Henderson County. He married Candis C. Green, and they had three children, listed here:
— Halton Morton
— Margie Dell Morton
— Jesse Rayborn Morton (1920-) was born in Henderson County and later lived in Sugar Land, Texas. He married Mildred Minnie Young, and they had four children.
4) John Robert Morton (1898-1988), was born in Cottonwood and later married Hattie Hazel. They had three children, listed here:
— Christine Morton
— John Byron Morton
— Laverne Morton
5) Fairy Gertrude Morton (1902-1995), was born in Cottonwood, lived most of her life in the community, and died in Athens. She married William Everett Foster February 8, 1919, in Eustace. In the 1920s, she and her young family lived in Crisp, Ellis County, Texas, before moving back to Henderson County. One of her sons, Ferrell “Gene,” called his mother a “true Texas pioneer woman.” She and Everett had four children, listed here:
— Lloyd Daniel Foster (1922-1922), was born February 23 and died March 24. He is buried in Cottonwood Cemetery.
— Charles Everett Foster (1923-1987), was born May 22, 1923, and died January 24, 1987, in Athens. Charles was a tank crewman in General Patton’s Army in World War II. He was part of the famous Battle of the Bulge in eastern France. Charles was sent back to the states for recovery after being injured in battle. I knew Uncle Charles as a tall and thin man. He loved to deer hunt and used an old German 9mm that I believe he brought back from the war. He also loved baseball. Charles’s first marriage produce one daughter, Trellis, born in 1946. He then married Anita, and they had two sons, Dennis and Guy, and a step-daughter, Sharon.
— Ferrell Eugene Foster Sr. (), born October 26, in Crisp, Ellis County, Texas, lived in Dallas from about age 21 until age 50, then returned to live in Henderson County, southwest of Eustace. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the Pacific but was not involved in combat. He married Hilda Louise Noble on January 10, 1947, in Dallas. They had two children, Ruby Dianne and Ferrell Eugene Jr.
— Billy John Foster (1932-1965), born August 24, 1932, in Cottonwood, lived his adult life in Dallas. He married Alma Charlene Taylor, and they had two sons, Lynn and Blake. Billy died of stomach cancer at age 33 in Dallas.
6) Jesse Myron Morton (1904-1981), born August 5, 1904, in Henderson County and died July 19, 1981, in the county. He married Eugenia Violet York, and they had five sons, listed here:
— Jack Morton
— Jerry Morton
— John Michael Morton
— Larry Morton
— Rusty Morton
7) Jewel Melvina Morton (1909-1999), born September 29, 1909, in Cottonwood, and died March 15, 1999, in Henderson County. She married Roy Columbus Hendley on July 7, 1928. They lived a number of years in Waxahachie, Texas. “We went to Waxahachie when I was a freshman in high school,and I thought the world had come to an end” said their daughter, Bobbie Ann Hendley Armstrong in a 2010 interview. “But it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. My uncle and aunt, Dick and Ettie Blackwell, moved to Waxahachie to manage the Baptist orphanage. Dad had lost the land he was farming in Cottonwood.” Bobbie Ann was the Hendley’s only child.
— Bobbie Ann Hendley, born October 21, Henderson County. She married Chad Eugene “Dick” Armstrong, and they had two sons, Ty Eugene and Shawn Lee.
More on James Morton
So, where did James Morton come from? James was born in the Pendleton District of South Carolina on May 17, 1790, and he died May 4, 1871, in Blount County, Alabama, shortly after his three sons headed to Texas. He was the sixth of eleven children born to Marshall Morton Sr. and his wife, Winny or Winnea.
James married Mary Ann Durham in 1809 in South Carolina, and their first four children — Nellie, Jesse, William Epps, and Elizabeth “Betsey” — were born there, probably in the Pendleton District. The next eight children — Sarah, John Hinkle, Joel, Mary, Jane, Drury A., Winnefred Jincy, and Harper — were born in Blount County, Alabama.
In 1870, the census indicates James and Mary Ann Morton were living with their youngest daughter, Winnefred, three of her children and a man named Andrew Nelson in Blountsville, which was in the eastern half of Blount County, Alabama.
Marshall Morton, Sr.
Marshall, or possibly Marshal, was born June 19, 1763, in Chatham County, North Carolina. I visited this county briefly in the early 1990s. Research on Marshall Sr. has produced some differing opinions. There are two basic approaches, the most popular being that his father and mother were James and Jane Peden Morton, the other being that his father was an unspecified Jesse Morton. While the first one is most popular, the second arises out of research done around World War II and includes references to a family Bible. I don’t know if we will ever know for sure.
(This is a shorter, summary version of a longer document that I have researched the past year. This will be presented Saturday, June 2, 2011, at the annual gathering at Cottonwood Cemetery in Henderson County, Texas. Please offer suggestions, additions, or corrections through comments. I would love to know more stories.)